Crowning George II was the least of the Supremes’ mistakes, according to local attorney and novelist Scott Turow, writing in the Washington Post National Weekly (December 25-January 1). The real transgression was the way they did it. “Legal Realism, the dominant school of jurisprudence in the 20th century, recognized that when judges are free to choose, they will fashion rules that mirror their own ideologies.” Hence the Legal Realists did their best to “erect a tradition that minimized the occasions when judges could do that. Judicial restraint, deference to legislation and strict adherence to procedural norms were some of the ways Realists sought to restrict judicial decision-making.” But in the Florida case, “the court was unable to articulate any neutral principle that seems to justify Bush’s victory–and that could be accepted by all sides. There was no ‘one man, one vote’; no ‘all men are equal’; not even a court declaration that our president-elect got the most votes in Florida. We were left only with, ‘Time’s up.'” Now that the Legal Realist restraints have been broken, “lower courts, especially those inclined to decide in ways they believe the Supreme Court will favor, will be tempted to make decisions with a more openly political flavor.”
“Chicago is becoming a city that I no longer feel I know,” complains Lee Bey of the Sun-Times, quoted in “Focus” (January). “Michigan Avenue…is slowly turning into a suburban main street….State Street…is turning into an urban ‘colonial Williamsburg.'”
All college prep high schools are equal, but some are more equal than others. Debra Williams writes in Catalyst (December), “North of Madison Street: College preps are housed in lavish new facilities. South of Madison Street: College preps are having to retrofit old, existing buildings. North Side: Principals got nearly a year of lead time to recruit staff and plan curriculum. South Side: With one exception, principals had fewer than 30 days to convert an entire school’s format. North: Schools get a lot of early publicity that helps attract talented teachers and students. South: The board has done little to get the word out.”
“Most of the policies and practices that were established in the early days of the Cold War to protect official secrets remain intact,” Steven Aftergood reminds readers of the Hyde Park-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (November/December). “It is true that the United States has the most open government in the world….Today, more official information is more easily available to more people than ever before. But the U.S. government is also the most secretive in the world. With its huge military budget and vast intelligence bureaucracy, the United States produces more new secrets more quickly than any other country. In 1999 alone, a total of 8,038,592 new secrets were created, an increase of 10 percent from the year before.” We still have plenty of old ones too: the oldest classified document now in the National Archives dates from 1917.
As others see us–time to consult with an ear specialist. Writing in the Utne Reader (January-February), Peter Katz names Chicago one of the country’s ten “most underrated cities,” in part because of our “elevated trains, rumbling poetically above the streets.”
“Wherever you look, religion is the main obstacle to providing women with modern reproductive health care,” observes Katha Pollitt in the Nation (September 18-25), reprinted in Martin Marty’s “Context” (January 1): “The fig leaf of ‘conscience’ becomes a justification for denying others basic human services. Thus the Catholic Church throws its weight against making health insurers cover contraception (Viagra’s fine, though) and anti-choice pharmacists claim the right to refuse to dispense birth control, emergency contraception, or…RU-486. What about the idea that if my ‘conscience’ doesn’t permit me to do my job, maybe I’m in the wrong line of work?”